Sand Creek (update #2), Wynkoop, & 2 special people

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2018
Contact Kraft at writerkraft@gmail.com or comment at the end of the blog


Well here we are approaching the end of August 2013. Some—actually most—is very good, while some of you don’t want to hear about (or maybe you do, but I’m not tellin’). As you’ve seen in past blogs I like to mix and match subject matter. The reason is twofold: 1) This is how my brain functions, and 2) Writing is a continuous experiment. We have one other thing to add to this blog, … my life again has balance. I have great friends. Some close, some hundreds of miles away, and some thousands of miles away. I’m lucky. But although they play a major part in my ongoing life and growth, my life requires two key people (there are no surprises here).

Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway contract

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Obviously lk is happy, and this image represents my feelings. It was taken while I spent prime time at Fort Larned, Kansas, in September 2012. A lot of the time was spent with my good friend and Fort Larned chief ranger, George Elmore. He took this picture while I leaned against the reconstruction of Wynkoop’s home-U.S. Indian Agency that has been reconstructed at the post. During this trip I spoke about Wynkoop’s efforts to save the Cheyenne-Lakota village on the Pawnee Fork (35 miles west of Fort Larned) when Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock threatened to destroy it in April 1867. I delivered the talk on the pristine village site, which is protected. I also represented Wynkoop when he was inducted into the Santa Fe Trail Association hall of fame. (photo © Louis Kraft 2012)

Great news: In mid-August Chuck Rankin, editor-in-chief at OU Press, and I worked out a Sand Creek contract that is acceptable to both of us. Since then OU Press has sent me the final contract. I received it on August 28, and saw one final fix that must be in place before I signed the contract. I emailed my request to Chuck and he got right back to me to hand write the change into the contract, initial the change, and send it to OU Press. I did. Bottom line: lk is one happy writer.

If you have read some of the previous blogs you know how much I like and respect Chuck. He has been the backbone to Sand Creek for years, and if it wasn’t for him this project would still be floating in na-na land while I tentatively dogpaddled through quicksand.

Oh yeah, if you didn’t know it, the Indian wars nonfiction field can be a minefield wherein one must tread carefully. I’ve already mentioned key people, friends who will become my bosom buddies over the next three years (contract term begins on October 1, 2013, with a polished manuscript delivery date of October 1, 2016). Doable! I’m sorry, but no contract details other than we have agreed upon 130,000 words. Am only going to mention one person here—John Monnett. John walks some of the same roads I do (not all, for our lives have been different), but we have a lot in common. John’s got fire plus a good sense of humor, not to mention a firm grasp on humanity. My only regret with John is that he lives in that far-off land of snow called Colorado. He would be a perfect fit for Los Angeles (if he sees this, I’m certain his head would bounce off the ceiling in his living room and that’s a long bounce).

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This art by Robert Lindneux (dust jacket for Greene & Scott, Finding Sand Creek, 2004) is totally wrong. Every primary source I have seen discounts this art. I have total control over the images in the Sand Creek book, and there is no way this art will be on the dust jacket for Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway. If the art director at OU Press even hints at this being on my dust jacket, he won’t have time to blink for I will be in Norman, OK, so fast he won’t have time to gulp in air.

Many of you know that Ned Wynkoop has played a key role in my development as a writer and historian over the years. He has not gone away. To the contrary, he will play a key role in the Sand Creek book. … As will Black Kettle and the Cheyennes, including—depending upon what I can find—Bull Bear and Tall Bull, and to a lesser degree other Cheyennes, such as Little Robe (and cross my fingers, Roman Nose if he drifted southward at this time), and Arapahos Left Hand and Little Raven (among others), and the Oglala Lakota Pawnee Killer (and if I get lucky and can link the great Crazy Horse to the central plains). …

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Southern Cheyenne Ivan Hankler. I met Ivan at a convention at Fort Larned, Kansas in spring 2004. We immediately hit it off and I spent most of my time with him during the two- or three-day event. During this time we hung out and talked (in his tipi and on the Fort Larned grounds). I learned a lot, but best of all gained a friend. This is my favorite image of him from 2004. During the event I spoke about Custer finding Stone Forehead’s village on the Sweetwater in the Texas Panhandle in 1869, and the peaceful negotiations that followed. Ivan didn’t think he could attend the talk, and I told him (and Kiowa James Coverdale) to attend, that they would be my guests. They did. Good times. Unfortunately Ivan has moved on; perhaps I shouldn’t mention his name and share his image here, but I decided to break the rules for he will always be a part of my world. (Photo © Louis Kraft 2004)

Those of you who read Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek (2011) know that I worked with Cheyennes. This association will not only continue to grow with Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway, it will include other key Cheyennes I know, like, and respect. Certainly John Chivington is a leading player, as are Rocky Mountain News publisher and editor William Byers and territorial governor John Evans. The Bents (William, George, and Charley) will have key roles, and, if I can find enough information, Edmund Guerrier will be featured. Indian agent Samuel Colley, Interpreter/trader John Smith, soldier/enemy to Chivington Samuel Tappan, and soldiers Scott Anthony, Silas Soule, and George Shoup (again depending on information) will have key parts. Yep, there is a lot of research staring me in the face (and some of it will be with people and institutions that I have not yet worked with). …

I can’t speak for other writers, but for me the hope is always that the next book I write will be my best. Certainly Chuck Rankin has worked closely to put me in a position to make this happen. We have played with a voice, and if I can control it, Sand Creek will bridge the gap between my earlier and later nonfiction. Will the prose border heresy? I hope so! Will it survive reviews? Ouch! Don’t ask. Only time will tell. Will the text be blue? Depends upon what I can get away with and what you consider blue. Will it be controversial. You can bet on it! Where I couldn’t push the envelope with Wynkoop, I intend to approach Sand Creek with both guns blazing.

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Here are some of the usual suspects that will play roles in Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway. Ned Wynkoop and Silas Soule are kneeling in the foreground. Bull Bear is sitting left in the middle row and Black Kettle is sitting behind Wynkoop. In the back row, John Smith stands between Bull Bear and Black Kettle.

The Wynkoop contract allows me to write anything in any medium about him at any time; the Sand Creek contract limits what I can write in the future. These two contracts are both good for me even though they differ in what I can and cannot do. Chuck Rankin couldn’t remember how I landed the Wynkoop contract w/o limitations (simple: I wouldn’t sign it w/o an open slate to write what I wanted about him in the future). This future, in relation to Sand Creek, has changed. Chuck has rightfully stated that he must protect OU Press from me writing a competing manuscript to Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway. I totally agree with this. I don’t know what I’ll write about Ned Wynkoop in nonfiction book form (most likely nothing), but I had to protect that. This nonfiction book on Sand Creek will be the only one I write. This piece of the contract was important to Chuck and OU Press, and I agree with their view 100 percent.

All said, I’m going to have one hell of a good time writing this book. I’m thrilled. Period. I’m thrilled!!! The next three years of my life are going to be a wild ride of discovery. And like Errol & Olivia, I plan on sharing some of it with you. And there will be what I’m currently calling “information exchanges,” but they will have a different intent. The E&O quizzes focus on alerting you to who they are/were and what they did. The prizes will be dueling lessons (hey folks, I’m a poor writer and must be careful with what I give away). Here I hope to dig into people and actions with you, and the giveaways will be books.

Mr. Wynkoop updates

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View of the building that Ned Wynkoop rented from the post trader at Fort Larned, Kansas at the end of the 1860s. It served as both his home and as the Cheyenne-Arapaho Indian agency. Due to space limitations this (or another image) didn’t make it into the Wild West article. (Photo © Louis Kraft 2012)

A quick update on Ned, … The next article, “The NPS Has Rebuilt Ned Wynkoop’s Indian Agency Home at Fort Larned” will appear in the December 2013 issue of Wild West magazine. Editor Greg Lalire and I have completed our final fixes to the layout and copy edit. I’m pleased. It should be on newsstands in late (?) October.

I still owe Greg Wynkoop art for the August 2014 issue of Wild West, which features Wynkoop meeting Black Kettle for the first time in September 1864. it has been in progress for a long time, … and for a long time I have backed away from it. Why? Honestly, I’m a piss-poor artist who attempts to sell only because he likes to eat on an almost-daily basis.

This Wynkoop art is important because this is, from my point of view, an important article and I need illustrations for it. It is also important, for if I like the final product I intend on using it in the Sand Creek book (It will give critics that claim to be purists another Bowie knife to fling at me. Sobeit!).

Sand Creek information exchanges w/giveaways

These Sand Creek information exchanges will be different. Bear with me for a short while. Other than a few radio stations that deal with new music in Los Angeles (and air Rihanna and Lana Del Rey), most LA radio stations suck. Probably 85 percent of my time is spent on news and sports talk radio. ESPN AM 710 shines.

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This image of Kobe and Vanessa Bryant appeared in the Los Angeles Times on August 25, 2013.

Of course ESPN is Lakers-centric in Los Angeles (Kobe and the Lakers dominate). However, there is a good focus on USC football, and recently—and I mean real recently (the LA Dodgers have been a laughing joke since Kurt Gibson’s miraculous home run and Orel Hershiser’s pitching mastery during the 1988 world series—a golden moment in time that marked the beginning of the end of their careers). Until June 2013 the Dodgers were hard-put to find air time on ESPN AM 710. No more. They are now challenging the Lakers’ dominance (forget the Clippers, for they are little more than bridesmaid wanna-be’s until they win a championship). Hanley Ramirez, Yasiel Puig, and Clayton Kershaw (who is quickly placing his name next to the great Sandy Koufax) have taken LA by storm.

Back to the Sand Creek information exchanges. They will be like the phone calls to ESPN AM 710, in that they aren’t quizzes at all, but will be prizes awarded to the best comments based upon subject matter that I make public. I hope this isn’t obscure. If it is, ping me and I’ll try to clarify. For example I might create a discussion subject such as mixed-blood Cheyenne Charley Bent. He’ll be an open target, but whatever you say that is controversial you’ll need to back up with citation. I’m not looking for bad and I’m not looking for good. Rather, I’m looking for discovery. If you’ve read any of my nonfiction books you know that I don’t shortchange people who help my research. Yep, … that’s the key here. I’ll be looking to expand my knowledge of people and events. Again, I’m not looking for good or evil, or right or wrong, but what happened and who did what. You don’t have to provide complete details, but I would like a clear direction to where I can dig and discover what happened.

My hope is that the above will be different and that it will generate responses from you.

This entire website/blog has been an experiment to find and connect with you. It has also been an experiment for me to find out who I am and where I’m heading as a writer and person. To date I’m pleased with the results. I have no intention of backing off and hope to challenge both you and myself.

The prizes will be Indian wars books from my library but not Kraft books (sorry, but I’m a starving writer). They will be books that I probably won’t read or use again. This doesn’t mean they aren’t good books; all it means is that I won’t use them again and need to add space to my home that has grown terribly tight over the years. When this becomes reality I will announce the book titles and publication dates along with subjects that are hopefully of interest to you.

The future?

That’s it, other than to say that Sand Creek will dominate my writing life. E&O will advance, but all magazine article-writing will stop, as will all talks unless I receive my full salary and all expenses. Actually a sad state of affairs, my writing affairs, but this is nothing new.

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George Elmore at Pawnee Rock State Historic Site, Kansas, on September 21, 2012. A number of cool presentations of people who played roles on the Santa Fe Trail were performed by actors (including John Carson, who portrayed his relative Kit Carson). Unfortunately the Kansas sun was deadly that day. (Photo © Louis Kraft 2012)

One exception might be a break to be a writer in residence at Fort Larned, Kansas (an invitation, if still open, that is of great interest to me).

George Elmore, chief ranger at Fort Larned, has played a key role in my Indian wars writing life since we met in the early 1990s. In September 2012 I spent a lot of time with him during a major three-day Kansas event wherein I spoke about Wynkoop trying to prevent Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock from destroying a peaceful Cheyenne-Lakota village on the Pawnee Fork in Kansas on the protected and pristine village site (my favorite of all the key Cheyenne village sites). George shared stories about men and events that are right up my alley—men and events I had no knowledge of. If ever we can put our heads together and I have the opportunity to explore these stories, my writing will take on an entirely new direction while surprisingly stay the course with everything I have written in the past.

Two people

As I mentioned above, there are a lot of great people in my life, people I enjoy seeing and hanging out with at the drop of a hat. This can happen with my friends in LA and attached counties (and I can count them on my fingers and toes). Expand to Northern and Southern California, the West, and points east, and this number noticeably grows. No matter when I see any of these people, it is just like yesterday. They are all talented, artistic, and vocal. In a word, they are really cool human beings. Some share my interests; others don’t. Some share my political views; others don’t. They are of a multitude of races, and not all are American born. They are just people, … people I’m lucky to know.

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There are two other people, and they are core to my soul and to my very existence. One I’ve known for many years (and some of you know her). The other is new to my life (and some of you know her). They give my life balance, they give my life validity, and they give my life a future.

Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway (update #1)

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2018
Contact Kraft at writerkraft@gmail.com or comment at the end of the blog


As the Sand Creek book now moves forward at lightening speed I thought that the time had arrived to begin updates on its progress.

This blog is the first in what will be a long string of Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway postings that deal with status, thoughts, invitations, and quizzes. Not to worry for I’m certain that most of you aren’t interested in swinging a blade—the winners won’t win a free dueling lesson. They will, however, win something that I hope will be of interest.

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Chuck Rankin (right) is editor-in-chief at OU Press. This image was taken in September 2011 when Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek was presented to the public (Western History Association convention in Oakland, Ca.) for the first time. Chuck gave me the poster behind us, and it has since been framed and hangs in my living room. The reason is simple: This book is the most important book I have written. Charley Gatewood’s involvement with the Apaches was as important as Wynkoop’s with the Cheyennes and Arapahos, but Gatewood’s involvement was limited to his career within the military. Wynkoop’s involvement with Indians extended beyond the military and eventually challenged national politics. Both dared to stand for what they considered right, but Wynkoop’s fall was greater for he dared to take on his entire world. This took guts. Gatewood’s stance also took guts, but to a lesser degree. (photo © Louis Kraft & Chuck Rankin 2011)

Years ago Chuck pitched me to write a book about Sand Creek and I said “no,” that I write about people and not war. Chuck didn’t give up and over time we have worked on a storyline that is good for both of us. Our connection with this story idea didn’t stop there and he has been with me as the book proposal developed. It became a story idea that we both liked and we worked as a team. Chuck sent an email a week or so back, and it reads in part:

“Sorry for the delay, but I was going to wait until our Faculty Advisory Board [FAB] pronounced the final decision. That occurs August 13, a week from Tuesday. Meanwhile, our Editorial Committee (an internal committee) met on the project … this past week and gave Sand Creek a unanimous and enthusiastic two thumbs up. So, it’s all a green light to FAB, and I expect no problems there whatsoever.

“It’s all good.”

August 13 will move us to the final piece in making the book reality—the contract. This is always touchy as both sides have items they want. As such, it turns into a round-robin of negotiations. I hate to say it, but I enjoy this. … As soon as the contract is signed, Sand Creek and Tragic End of a Lifeway will dominate the next three years of my life. Talks will be limited to my full asking salary and all expenses, Errol & Olivia progress will slow but will move forward (this book is important and will happen). Alas, magazine writing will go on hiatus (am scrambling to complete what I owe). Blogs, however, will continue at a steady pace.

Those of you interested in Errol & Olivia fear not, for the next blog will deal with them.


August 13th is here, and late today the expected news arrived. Per Chuck Rankin:

“It’s late in the day and I’m headed out the door, but I wanted you to know that the faculty board approved your proposal for a study of Sand Creek today. Congratulations!”

Ladies and gents, all that remains are the contract negotiations. Chuck and I both want this book—we’ll work it out. At this moment I’m one happy frontiersman. The smile is wide. This is a good day to be alive.

Approach to Errol Flynn & Olivia de Havilland’s acting + more

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2018
Contact Kraft at writerkraft@gmail.com or comment at the end of the blog


Ladies and gents, this is an important blog in that it was supposed to share how I’ll write about Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland’s acting in Errol & Olivia. An intriguing thought, but alas, it isn’t about to happen, at least not in the way you expect. Why? Simply, it’s a touchy subject for me—what to share or not share. This blog will discuss some of my background while giving you a hint of how I’ll address their acting (and in Flynn’s case, his dueling). But that said and you frowning, read on for I think the following is important.


Some bitching … or should I call it free advertising?

AT&T U-verse, the scourge of the LA internet, struck again while I was prepping the Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway blog (which was supposed to go live before this blog.
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A ghost lk image, for this is how I’ve felt for the last week and a half. I’ve been struggling with deadlines and a contract negotiation. I don’t need software/internet failures. If this B.S. happens again, a company is going to be fired. (art © Louis Kraft 2013)


Oops! Actually that is OOPS!!! This blog went live first. No fanfare and in totally incomplete first rough draft form. Someone even liked it (not me; you can take that one to the bank). I could have totally destroyed it, but too much work had already been given it, and I decided not to. Kudos, AT&T U-verse, for you have another notch to add to your bloody dagger. Or was it PressHarbor, which teams with WordPress, and is responsible for this website-blog, as they had just performed a software update. If yes, as Caesar said as he was being murdered in Shakespeare’s play (Julius Caesar), “Et tu, Brute.”This blog on Errol & Olivia was planned for next week. My apologies for this error (give thanks to that dastardly villain, AT&T U-verse). They have become my Darth Vader. You’re getting a little more meat here than was originally intended (plus a free plug for AT&T U-verse). If AT&T U-verse crashes my internet connection after 5:00 PM Pacific Time, I’m dead in the water. No Chrome, no Firefox, no WordPress, oh, and that also includes no att.net (but who cares about att.net?), which all means one thing—no lk website/blog on my computers.

 To help you feel better there will be a quiz at the end of this blog,
and it will be easy.


Another dueling quiz

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A publicity image of Errol and Olivia for Dodge City. Take a close look at Mr. Flynn’s mustache. It ‘taint the one he wore in the film.


I know, some of you are thinking oh hell!!!, not another dueling lesson. Alas, I’m sorry, but ’tis true. I like the blade and want to cross it with living flesh and blood. That means you. (Or perhaps one of the key people in my life—hope burns eternal.) If I can’t secure victims—oops, I meant “volunteers”—locally I need to expand my horizon for would-be heroes. Smile, for you are again presented with the opportunity to enjoy swinging a saber for an hour, an hour and a half, or however long it takes me to wear you out. ‘Tis fun; trust me.

I’m not joking about the time limit with the sword. Again, this is fun for me. I’m good with the time. I’ll supply the water. If you want more punch, you supply the vino (however, this isn’t recommended).

What I bring to the table
I think you need to know a little about me that relates to me being capable of writing Errol & Olivia. Obviously I write biographies, but more is required. I don’t want to drag this out with a lot of words, so we’ll use a few bullets:
 
  • I discovered Flynn and de Havilland’s films when a boy
  • Flynn’s acting and writing influenced my life
  • While a young teenager I studied fencing with Ralph Faulkner in Hollywood
    • This led to me learning saber and dueling competition in college
    • It eventually led to me learning “swashbuckling,” or stage combat, and choreographing duels and dueling on stage
  • In junior high school I began studying acting and performing
    • This continued in high school
    • In college I majored in acting and directing
  • For about 15 years after college I attempted to survive in the acting world
  • After quitting acting I have survived as a writer
  • When opportunity presented itself in 2002 I returned to the stage but only in plays I have written
  • I have a track record of bringing historical figures to life in print, on stage, and when speaking before an audience
I believe the above qualifies me to not only write about Mr. Flynn and Ms. de Havilland but to approach their lives during a very short period of time in a different and perhaps avant-garde manner. These words are key, for they provide a hint to how I’m writing Errol & Olivia. … And better, I’m going into detail and it’s going to be fun detail; fun and multi-leveled detail.

Some views you should hear
You also need to have a warning here, especially so since some of you may not read my Indian Wars blogs. Not pitching you, but I’m alerting you to the fact that I don’t just pound out words based upon secondary books that may or may not be riddled with errors. This paragraph is important, for it informs you that I live with, walk with, and study my subjects until I know them. I don’t trust anyone. I must dig, dig, and then dig more. What is the truth and what is B.S.? Let’s drop the politeness and use the word—there is a lot of bullshit published with no documentation, or worse, documentation that is little more than smoke and mirrors created only to fool the reading public. This is totally unacceptable, and writers that are guilty of doing this are little more than cretins or worse. … Maybe they should win a dueling lesson—crossed blades with deadly intent could be fun. (I’ve been sliced just below the right eye; I know the adrenaline rush and what the cut feels like.)
dc_ah&efStreetRibbonART_wsFlynn having fun with Alan Hale in Dodge City. Obviously I’m playing around while I decide how I want to deliver photos/art for the next four books. (art in progress © Louis Kraft 2013)

I’m not a knight in shining armor but I do research my subject matter in all ways possible. And this doesn’t include a week or two or a month or two at an archives. I’m talking about years and years of research. For example, for Errol & Olivia I have been researching them at the USC Warner Bros. Archives since the mid-1990s (and elsewhere). I haven’t finished this research. And yes, there have been interruptions, sometimes lengthy. That said, putting food on the table, paying bills, and having a life are also important.Research time is limited, not only by me surviving but also the USC WB Archives limited availability. Currently they are open to historians and college students three times a week from 10:00 AM until 4:30 PM except when they are closed. At the moment they have been closed since the last week of July until September. Also, and this is key, they usually have only six spots open for researchers, and these are by appointment. …. Research, wherever it is happening, will continue up until the book is published.

In no way am I criticizing the USC WB Archives. It is a goldmine,
and over all these years the archivists have been so good to me. Everyone, … everyone. Jonathon Auxier runs the archives now. I’ve known him for a
number of years. Not only has he gone out of his way to make my
research experience successful, he’s just a great person.
Charming, funny, bright, caring. The archives are lucky they have
him running the show, for I’m certain he has helped many
people find the information they crave.


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Olivia and Flynn during the forrest banquet scene in The Adventures of Robin Hood. (art in progress © Louis Kraft 2013)

Not to worry, for I write as I research. Originally I had told a number of people that this blog would deal with E&O’s acting. Unfortunately this was a false statement by me. My apologies, for I have realized that I can’t give away key elements to the book (even though it would only be related to say They Died With Their Boots On or Four’s a CrowdThe Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex, and Dodge City. These films will dominate the acting and writing in E&O. Certainly Santa Fe Trail is important as Flynn and his Livvie have moved to a new level in their relationship. The Adventures of Robin Hood is mandatory as it is key to their lives. Captain Blood introduced them, but they were little more than amateurs at this time. Captain Blood is important for the raw emotions that are captured on screen (ditto Robin Hood). The Charge of the Light Brigade is an exceptional film in that it not only clearly documents their giant steps forward as actors (especially Flynn) but it also continues/cements a relationship that is fragile.Trust me, Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland became attracted to each other from the moment they met during the casting of Captain Blood. No matter what happened or the directions their lives would take, they would remain connected regardless of their problems with each other over time.
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Swordsmen just wanna have fun. … and nothing is sacred. (art in progress © Louis Kraft 2013)

I’m sorry for not talking about their acting in one of their films but this seemed to be wrong at this time. I want to keep your interest … I need to keep your interest. I can’t give the book away. One thing is certain—who they were and how they felt influenced their performances on screen. I will view their acting from a multitude of layers, which includes their growth as actors (and both did grow on film), as well as raw emotions that at times were captured by the cinematographer. Regardless of what happened with their real-life relationship, they were always drawn to each other. The sexual desire was always present, regardless of the hurt or anger in their lives. This led to friendship, and this eventually gave them their best performances as an acting duo. I will discuss their acting using my acting background. Ditto Mr. Flynn and his handling of a sword. This will be a book of their life and times, but it is also a history of their times and that includes their films and their acting in their eight films together. What I share will be lively. One final note, Errol & Olivia will be different from any book you have ever read about Mr. Flynn or Ms. de Havilland. It will change your thinking about them.

Now for your quiz
This is a two-part question that deals with Errol Flynn’s swashbuckling films (TV performances don’t count here). He made eight of them. 1) Name them, the year they were released, and the characters Flynn played. 2) He made another film that could have been a swashbuckler. Certainly he swung a blade on camera. Name this film, its year of release, and who Flynn played. Like I said, easy. Email me with your answers. Remember, you’ll have to live locally or travel to cross blades with me. There is no rush to collect your winnings, for there is no time limit (other than me continuing to walk and swing a sword).

How race has affected my life & writing

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2018
Contact Kraft at writerkraft@gmail.com or comment at the end of the blog


I saw and liked this image of Nuch (that is Pailin), and she gave it to me. It was taken at her work shortly before I met her, and more importantly shows a little of her world—a world I hope to enter. She created the border; all I did was prep it for the internet. (photo © Pailin Subanna 2013)

There is a new lady in my life. She has been a long time coming, and that is because I don’t look for women and I don’t chase women. We are getting to know each other, letting our friendship grow as we experience our cultures. She is charming, funny, bright, has a sensitivity that I have seldom seen, and is open to the world and all it has to offer. She is certainly braver than I have been (and I have pushed my limits at times). Oh, did I mention that I am thrilled to know her. My eyes devour her (no bad thoughts here; only good thoughts). We are both shy, careful, perhaps wounded, and have an exciting adventure in front of us as we seal our friendship and move into our future.

I have a wonderful friend in Massachusetts. We are in constant contact. When she learned of the new lady in my life, she raised the very valid question about race. Since my divorce in the dark ages I have had two long-term girlfriends. As they were Asian and this lady is Asian, she raised the question if I am only interested in women of Asian descent. I told her no, absolutely not (I can list a number of false starts with terrific women of other races, but won’t). I told her all three relationships just happened and had nothing to do with race.

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My good friend Veronica von Bernath Morra with an African American sailor in July 2013 during a cruise to Bermuda. Both have great smiles. (photo © Veronica von Bernath Morra 2013)

She countered with a great comment: “IMHO nothing ‘Just Happens.’ The fact that these women are Asian and not black, Native American, Hispanic, etc., has something to do with what you find attractive. You must meet many women; but I believe you gravitate in one direction more than others!!”

My friend’s name is Veronica von Bernath Morra, and she said something I want to not believe. Certainly I see a lot of African American and Latina ladies that are drop-dead beautiful, but her statement, and this is exactly why I’m quoting her here, has got to have a lot of truth to it. I’m not going to talk about why, for honestly I don’t know why. I am going to talk about race, equality, and how it has affected my life and writing.

A lack of racism in my life

As far as I could see my parents had no racist bones in their bodies. I never heard anything from them that even hinted at what could be considered a negative or derogatory view of other people. I think they were key to what would become my future.

I was born in New York, but while young moved to California with my parents and younger sister. Within a year my mother, sister, and I were back to New York while my mother fixed up our home that had been rented. By the time I was 7 (perhaps 8) we had returned to California. By then I had already been in five, six, or maybe seven schools. The list would continue to grow. For a couple of years we lived in a trailer park in Van Nuys.

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This image (which unfortunately was too small and too out of focus for me to do anything with) has been colorized. The fellow on the left is Rand Brooks; he played Corporal Boone on The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin in the 1950s. The fellow on the right is Kid Kraft, one of the most infamous gunslingers of the 1950s. I don’t remember how many notches he had on his Colt revolver, but there were many. Notice that his Colt is butt first on his left hip. Yep, he used a cross-draw. This image was taken at Corriganville Park in Simi Valley, California, in February 1956. (photo/art © Louis Kraft 2013)

My best friend in 1955 was Jesse Carrera. We were buds, and on all our days free of elementary school we climbed the huge (to us) man-made mountain that would eventually become the 405 freeway as it sliced through Van Nuys and explore the labyrinth of sand and waterways hidden by dense brush and trees. We were frontiersmen exploring a pristine world. Our imaginations went wild as we cautiously followed the bends of the river. Every so often we would meet strangers, but all was peaceful and non-threatening. Jesse was Latino, but I didn’t know that. All I knew was that he was my first real friend. After his family or mine left the trailer park (can’t remember which family left first) I never saw him again. At the time this was a devastating loss.

Van Nuys is in the San Fernando Valley (Los Angeles County, where most of the towns are part of the city of the Angels). In 1956 my parents bought a home on half an acre in Reseda. Rural, definitely rural (animals galore), and I would grow up in this house. My school years through high school consisted of mostly Anglo Americans. I had an Asian friend who I met in fourth grade and due to the constant splitting of school districts we were part of a small group of kids that went from one school (4th grade) to another (5th & 6th grades), all of junior high (although most of our classmates went to another junior high) and all of high school together (again separated from most of our junior high classmates). For him and me, staying together through school was a rarity, for every time a district divided we were on the small side and became outsiders in our new schools. His name was Brian Usui. Recently I had hoped to see him again, but it wasn’t to be for he had died. In junior high my best friend was David Koenig. He was half German and half Latino (we had three years together, and remained friends afterwards, but I haven’t seen him in years). Dave and I shared some adventures, including running for our lives when an irate father attempted beat the hell out of us or worse. Our legs and his lack of physical condition saved us.

As stated, Brian and I were on the short end of our final school border split as Cleveland High School in Reseda had recently opened. It was half a block from my house, which allowed me to spend time with my mother every lunch hour—heaven! (Yep, I was a mama’s boy.)

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lk w/Nina & Pete Senoff at a Cleveland High School birthday party on the evening of September 29, 2012. Pete gave me the image (and I don’t know if the image is from his camera or someone else’s). It was a duotone when I received it, and I like duotones. … Pete was the editor on the Cleveland HS paper, and during our final year he played a major role in me having a good life that last year. I know, that’s pretty damned obscure. I won an election I had no right to enter (two teachers and Pete made this happen–perhaps I’ll talk about this sometime). The past is long gone; what matters now is that we are friends. This includes Nina, and I look forward to our future relationship. This includes Nuch, who, thanks to Pete, has already become friends with Nina.

Memory says Cleveland HS was mostly Anglo American, some Latinos, and probably more Asians than Brian. I didn’t remember any African Americans in the school, but someone I liked during at least the last year of high school and who has reconnected with me—Pete Senoff (more about him and his pretty wife in the future)—last year told me that there were some African Americans at Cleveland. I didn’t meet the first African American person who would become a close friend until college. We were actors and we hit it off. His wife was white, and I had no problem with their marriage—they became good friends for years to come.

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Clay reacting to hearing that Liston cannot continue the fight. … Although I didn’t know it at this time, Muhammad Ali would become a major person during the 20th century but not for his boxing feats (which are legendary), but for his strength to stand firm for what he believed was right regardless of the consequences.

When Cassius Clay fought Sonny Liston for the heavy weight boxing championship on February 25, 1964, I was a member of a teen club. The fellow that led the group I belonged to laughed when I said Clay would win the fight. I had been following Clay on the radio and was certain he’d win. The counselor bet $20.00 against my pants on the outcome. I drooled over that 20 bucks, but damn how could I explain why I had no pants when my mother picked me up? Clay won, and soon after became Muhammad Ali, one of the greatest inspirations of the 20th century. (I would meet Ali twice a decade and a half or so later while working in the film industry—a thrill!). Let me put it to you this way: I was still an innocent, I never considered Ali’s race. It didn’t mean anything to me. Why? My mother and father.

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This picture was taken the night of my senior prom at Cleveland High School in Reseda, California, at Kathy Grossman’s parents’ house. And it does not do her justice, for she was gorgeous. ‘Course I was stupid, for when I moved on to college I didn’t look back. I did see Kathy one more time after my senior year ended when I bumped into her at the Reseda post office. I had seen my dad and was mailing a package for him. We had a nice talk. She had just returned from spending a year in a kibbutz in Israel, was visiting her parents, and was about to get married. She looked terrific; I never saw her again.

In my final year of high school I luckily had a pretty Jewish girl in my Spanish class. I actually had the guts to ask her out and she said yes. I should state here that during my visits to her home, her parents welcomed me. They were open, friendly, kind, and gracious—always. Never did I feel the outsider. A good feeling. Unfortunately she was younger than I was and I never made the attempt to continue the relationship after I moved on to college.

College presented me with four years of creativity, experimentation, and an introduction to the real world of racism. I was at school from 7:00 AM until 6:00 or 7:00 PM unless I was working on a theatrical production—then it would extend to 11:00 PM or later. I did almost all of my studying at school. I partied and lived the good life, including going to the beach whenever a good buddy named Steve Jacques and I decided to take the day off. I graduated in four years with 16 extra credits. I worked and paid for everything. My father wanted me to be like him; he wanted me to be a man for if not, I’d not survive in the real world. He paid for zero (although he did allow me to live at home for a good part of the time in a trailer in the back yard). I said, “F.U.!” I had begun working full-time in high school, for I knew what I wanted. Believe me, we had a number of knock-down fights and I always lost (and they weren’t by decision).

The Apaches during the end of their wars with the U.S. believed that if they couldn’t
win the fight (with little or no casualties) to run away to fight another day.
Unfortunately it took me years to learn this. I’ve been down for the 10-count more
than once. I have learned what the Apaches instinctively knew.

An eye-opening end to the 1960s

Robert F. Kennedy spoke at San Fernando Valley State College (now California State University, Northridge) on March 25, 1968, after announcing that he would seek the Democratic nomination for president on March 16th (and was warned by his brother not to run). At that time I was a registered Republican (I had worked for Ronald Reagan as volunteer during his first campaign to become governor of California) and could not have voted for RFK in the California primary election on June 4. I joined the crowd on that March day, and on that day I thought nothing of RFK. He meant absolutely nothing to me. During that hour or so when he spoke I was floored (read impressed). Had he not been murdered and had he won the Democratic nomination for president I would have voted for him (currently I’m registered as a Democrat, and have been since just before Bill Clinton’s California Democratic primary win in 1992, but have always voted for the candidate and not the party).

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In 1984 I worked on a mini-series, Robert Kennedy and His Times, that shot his final hours where they happened in the Ambassador Hotel on Wilshire Blvd. in Los Angeles (evening of June 4-5, 1968). Brad Davis played RFK and G.D. Spradlin played Lyndon B. Johnson (first class performances). I had a small part in the TV film (a little over 5 hours), but luckily was employed during the entire shoot; up front and center with the key people in the production (learning about good and bad). I then realized what I didn’t know in 1968, how important RFK was to civil rights and how tragic his murder was to the future of our country.

By the end of the 1960s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the movement for racial equality dominated the news. My home was racial free, regardless of how few friends I had of race. During my college years I bought into Dr. King’s movement 100 percent, and marched for him (before and after his death).

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Martin Luther King, Jr., and his wife Coretta in 1964, at the time he received the Nobel Peace Prize for his leadership and work in the civil rights movement. (art © Louis Kraft 2013)

In August 1963 Dr. King and a massive number of people marched in Washington DC, and on the 28th he delivered his “I Have a Dream” talk. I couldn’t be in Washington as I was too young, but I knew what happened. I had been working part time in high school, but during my last year I worked full time so I could enter college in fall 1965. In my first semester I took a speech class never dreaming that someday I would earn money speaking. I think there were two short talks and the final presentation. Mine dealt with Dr. King and his “I Have a Dream” speech.

Less than four years later while enjoying my last semester of college I took a Black theater class (that’s what African Americans were called then) on Sunday evenings. This class was outside the then-lines of mainstream theater and way outside college curriculum. I think my professor’s last name was Faulk (need to check). The Theater Department was small and I took a number of his classes, and they were always outside the box (or maybe he just allowed me to go outside the box). Four maybe five African Americans who weren’t in the Theater Department joined me in the class which was a round-robin discussion. Just us and Dr. Faulk sitting in a circle. Probably one or the most important classes I ever took. And it would influence my future, for it was still ongoing when Dr. King was murdered (two months before RFK) on April 4, 1968. In Los Angeles I marched in support of MLK Jr.’s views on peace, nonviolence, and racial equality. These marches, which were dominated by African Americans, were peaceful. It was probably at this time that I realized that people are people, and it doesn’t matter their race.

Post-college eye openers

The first eye opener took place while I was in training to become a member of Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) in Austin, Texas. One night during the wee hours of early morning (they rolled up the sidewalks at 10:00 PM, but not us), I experienced something I could have gladly missed. We were off by 6:00 or 6:30, and part of the training included how to position ourselves to work with American Indians (my desire–thanks to Errol Flynn Introducing me to Custer and Custer introducing me to the Indian wars), Blacks, or Hispanics. On that night (perhaps 2:00 AM) there were about 20 of us in one of the dorm rooms on the University of Texas campus. I said something that I perhaps should not have said to a white couple that I liked. Don’t remember what I said, but suddenly I had an arm wrapped around my chest and a knife at my throat. One of the Chicanos (as Mexicans whose parents were born in Mexico but they were born in the U.S. were then called) didn’t like what I said. He was present as he was looking for volunteers his delegation would choose to work in Mexican communities in one of the Southwestern states.

 I have been run over while riding a motorcycle and have
taken a motorcycle over a cliff. … I have been in car wrecks, car chases,
and more fisticuffs than necessary.
You’ve got to realize—and don’t laugh—I’m a man of peace.
I just have a knack of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
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An image taken shortly after lk left VISTA. (photo © Louis Kraft 1973)

Back to the knife. Let’s put it this way; I was frightened, but luckily in control of my thought process. I told the Chicano that if he killed me, he ruined his cause. I also told him that if he killed me he would have to kill everyone else in the room for otherwise his life would have no future.

These words were probably the most important of my life. He released me. Some four hours later when breakfast was served I was a hero. Pure bullshit for I was little more than a scared person who was thrilled to see the sun rise. Soon after the racial delegations chose us, similar to choosing sides for a sandlot football game. African Americans chose me. Although I was mad that I didn’t get to work with Navajos or Apaches or Cheyennes, I was lucky. There would be training in Sapulpa, Oklahoma, and more training in Austin before five women and two men (a Black woman from L.A. and a Black fellow I liked a lot—the rest were Anglo Americans) and I were assigned to Oklahoma City. Enough said, except to say that this was an important time in my life. I learned to live with and hang out with a race of people that had lived with and still experienced heavy racial oppression.

To this point in time I had no idea I would become a writer.

Acting, more racism, a daughter, & cold turkey

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lk as he looked for the first play at the Hayloft Dinner Theatre in Lubbock Texas; What Did We Do Wrong; a generation-gap comedy. (photo © Louis Kraft 1976)

After VISTA I spent as much time as possible with professional theater groups, I really learned how to act, and began to land some acting (and related) work. In the summer of 1976 I did dinner theater in Lubbock, Texas, and the racism I saw up close shocked me. The directors and lead actors came from L.A. Jim Reynolds played my best friend in the first play. We hit it off immediately and hung out together. He was African American. The actors lived at the theater, but the show running its last week while we rehearsed still occupied the rooms. That week before opening we lived in a motel with a restaurant. That first morning after our arrival the waitress gave me coffee, water, a menu, and ignored Jim. I not only had to ask for him—I had to order for him. As we didn’t have transportation, this restaurant was our only choice each morning for a week. And this was just the beginning of what I saw that summer of 1976; it was right out of films that featured racism in the South. To this day what I experienced in Lubbock has tainted my view of Texas; it still burns in my soul.

My mother’s death on January 4, 1980, ended my father’s
and my war. We spent the last weeks of her life, every
waking moment, together. My mother’s death gave
us a love that would be never-ending.

Years would pass, some good while others were bad. With the birth of my daughter Marissa in the early 1980s I knew what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I had begun writing screenplays in the 1970s. By the mid-1980s I began selling magazine articles. Knowing that computers were the future I quit acting cold turkey and perhaps nine months later landed a job with a corporate insurance firm as a secretary under the condition that I teach myself the computer (to date I had never touched one). That was probably the biggest job I ever landed in my life for it gave me my future.

Defending my writing

My Indian wars writing and speaking has always dealt with racism—Anglo Americans, Cheyennes, and Apaches (someday also Navajos). My interest has always been a few white men that attempted to bring about the end of war, tried to not kill, and/or stood firm for Indian rights. I view Indian people that dared to stand up to the American juggernaut as patriots. In some circles this isn’t a popular viewpoint. Believe it or not, the Indian wars still sizzle with racism. It is as alive today as it was in the 1860s and 1880s. Add that I have always viewed this tragic conflict from both points of view, and at times I am not viewed in the best light.

For those of you wondering about Errol & Olivia and future books on Flynn,
worry not for this work will also generate controversy.
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Tanya Thomas as Mo-nahs-e-tah (how the Southern Cheyenne woman’s name was pronounced) and lk as Ned Wynkoop in Cheyenne Blood (2009). I chose this image as it gives you a physical view of how I approach the Indian wars (and unfortunately haven’t written any plays dealing with the Apaches). Tanya is a great actress, and I enjoyed working with her. My pal, the very talented Tom Eubanks directed Cheyenne Blood. (photo by Dean Zatkowsky)

During the time of the Gatewood/Apache books I constantly found myself defending Geronimo. I would ask those attacking me, what would you do if a superior force invaded the United States, took your homeland, killed your friends and loved ones, destroyed your religion, your culture, and your lifeway while making you a prisoner of war? What would you do? I know what I would do.

When giving a talk in Santa Fe, New Mexico, someone asked who in today’s world would I compare Geronimo to? I said, “Osama bin Laden (he was still alive and a threat to the U.S.).” The person who asked the question was outraged. I told her that bin Laden and Geronimo are/were the bogeyman, an embodiment of terror. I bring this up for one reason—there are two sides to every story. What was the U.S. military to Geronimo or bin Laden? Only they can tell you …

Trust me, Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway
will be a special treat for those not in love with my writing. For those of
you that enjoy my writing, this book will be well worth the wait.

For the record: My writing requires no explanation. It is what it is.

Deadly intent?

More recently I appeared on LA Talk Radio. The host is someone I’ve known for years and someone I consider a friend. LA Talk Radio has two stations that are live at the same time, and I met the other host, a Jewish fellow, before the hour interview began (almost exclusively Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland).

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After the hour, the Jewish host, who knew we were going out, asked to join us. During our late-night dinner he began a monologue on Nazis that eventually included film actress Maureen O’Hara and her supposed heinous participation in WWII. He then moved on to Asians. The tirade bothered me. He had no justifiable reasons for his statements, and refused to substantiate anything. After a while I began to smile (probably my best Clint Eastwood smile). This bothered him and he said, “What’s your problem?” “You,” I replied. “You’re a racist.”

He violently denied my accusation, but offered no proof to back up his statements. I continued to smile, which unnerved him.

Me? I’m a pacifist and avoid violence whenever possible. I stand firmly for racial equality but at times in my past did not challenge racism when it stared me in the face. I heard more than my share of racist slurs in high school (but don’t remember any in college). I played 10 years on a ball team, and even though we had a Latino and a couple of Asians on the team, I saw hatred directed toward teams that were not predominantly white. I have also listened to racist comments from law enforcement personnel. Living has changed me. Where once I remained silent to what I considered offensive, I no longer do. For me, racism isn’t acceptable. The Jewish radio host sensed this, and made damn sure he kept his distance from me as he exited the restaurant. To repeat, I’m a pacifist—but he I would have gladly engaged. And I would have won.

What excites me … and what frightens me

You know what I find exciting? When people who don’t speak the same language, fear each other, are at war, but sit down to discuss peace. Now that’s exciting, but I’m talking about the 1860s and the 1880s. Race relations in our world is much-much more important today than it was during the Indian wars. Back in the 1860s or 1880s there was certainly the possibility of the elimination of a race of people. A heinous thought. Today the threat is greater, for today if mankind can’t work it out with people that have different beliefs, religions, cultures, and values, someday one of these groups of people will unleash weapons of mass destruction that will eliminate mankind as we know it.

Only time will tell

I like people and don’t care where they were born. I don’t care what color their skin is, what their religion is, or what their politics are. A good person is a good person. I’m open and I do get along with people. Always have. I don’t let too many people into my inner circle (and this group, although small but much larger than you think, is not limited to Los Angeles or California or the American West but includes people outside the United States). The reason is simple—time. I short-change my friends all the time, but it isn’t on purpose but rather because I must work long hours to survive.

There is a door that should not be opened, but it will be as I need to state something. And it is important for it goes right back to what initiated this blog. The new lady in my life. Where will our relationship lead? I know what I hope and she may hope the same. Only time will tell. One thing is certain; we must become good friends first.

Veronica and Marissa have questioned my choice in women (read Asian). I denied it, but as said above the question is valid. I have had three long-term relationships (a marriage and two ladies); one was Anglo American and the others were Japanese and Korean. But that’s not the full story, for there have been other women: Anglo Americans, African Americans, Latinas, Asians, Persians, Swedes, Greeks, Jewish people, and almost an American Indian. These ladies were special but for one reason or another the relationships were not long term and sometimes never moved beyond friendship. In my opinion only the long-term relationships count for they are the important ones when talking about love, which makes me a three-time loser.

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Nuch & lk on June 20, 2013. Nuch always has a great smile; this was the first time I smiled—really smiled—in years. There’s also the bonus that my hair is combed, which is a rarity. Nuch took this image.  (photo © Pailin Subanna & Louis Kraft 2013)

Or perhaps not. Maybe I’ve only been in training for my future.

My new lady is from Thailand. We have a fragile past with a lot of hurt, pain, and tragedy, and because of this we are very careful. We are seeing each other, exploring L.A., eating, learning language, sharing, laughing, dancing, enjoying each other’s company … and we have become friends.

Do I dare say good friends? Yes!

Will we move to love and intimacy? We don’t know. Only time will tell.

One thing is certain. … The opening of my heart to this lady is based completely on who she is as a human being and has nothing to do with race (and I’m safe in saying that this is also how she feels).